The Oilers are leading the Kings two games to one and they’ll have a chance to put a stranglehold on the series on Sunday night in Los Angeles.
1. Edmonton’s 8-2 win in Los Angeles on Friday night extended the Kings’ home playoff losing streak to six games. They were swept in the first round by the Vegas Golden Knights the last time they were in the playoffs in 2018 and, before that, they lost in five games in the first round to the Sharks and their only win came on the road. In order to find L.A.’s most recent playoff win at home, you have to go back to 2014 when Alec Martinez scored the Stanley Cup-winning goal in double overtime to beat the New York Rangers.
2. Winning Game 4 would obviously put the Oilers in a great position to win this series. It’s hard to imagine the Kings coming back and winning three games in a row, two of which would be in Edmonton. Teams that go up 3-1 in a seven-game series have historically wound up winning that series 90.8 percent of the time. Teams that go up 3-1 while winning Game 4 on the road have won the series 91.3 percent of the time historically.
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3. It’s been incredible to see Edmonton’s offence explode the way it has over the past two games. The eight goals they scored in Friday’s win are as many as they scored in the entirety of their four-game sweep to the Winnipeg Jets last spring and the 14 goals from Games 2 and 3 are just one less than they scored in four games against the Chicago Blackhawks in the bubble in 2020.
4. STATS came out with a pretty random-but-interesting tidbit about the Oilers on Friday night… They’re the first team in NHL history to lose the first game of a playoff series and then come back and win the next two games in the series by six goals or more.
I think this is largely because you don’t often see teams win by such a huge margin in back-to-back games in the playoffs. You might see a thumping, but you usually see the team that got thumped bounce back and play better the next game. Like in 2017, the Oilers got embarrassed 7-0 by the Sharks and then came back and won the next game in overtime. When they beat the Ducks 7-1 that same spring, Anaheim won the following game.
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Even when looking through the 80s Oilers game log, you don’t see them clowning a team by a six-goal margin multiple times in one series.
5. Key to this success has been the fact that all of Edmonton’s lines are getting into the mix offensively. While Evander Kane is leading the way with five goals in three games, the Oilers have had nine different players score a goal so far in this series with the Kings. Last spring, only seven different players scored for the Oilers, and in the bubble in 2020, Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl combined to score more than half of Edmonton’s goals.
The difference in the quality of forward depth from this year to previous years has been staggering. No longer do the Oilers need to stack McDavid and Draisaitl on one line because they both have a pair of wingers who can set up plays and score goals. Also, the Oilers’ bottom-six had previously been a black hole, but that hasn’t been the case this playoffs, as the third and fourth lines have chipped in three goals through three games.
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6. Mike Smith also deserves praise for the way he’s bounced back after making that errant pass late in the third period of Game 1. Smith stopped 74 of 76 shots in Games 2 and 3 for a .974 save percentage. His career save percentage in the playoffs now sits at .932.
7. It’s clear and not at all surprising that the Kings miss Drew Doughty’s presence on the blueline. Without Doughty, everyone on L.A.’s blueline has had to move up a peg and take on a larger role, which is a significant challenge given four of these six defenders are playing in their first-ever NHL playoff series this year.
Sean Durzi and Matt Roy are L.A.’s ice-time leaders among defencemen in this series and you can see in their underlying numbers how they’ve been caved in taking on minutes that would usually be handled by Doughty. Durzi had a 51.8 expected goals for percentage during the season and it’s at 45.7 in the playoffs, while Roy’s expected goals have plummeted from 54.9 to 40.9 percent.
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8. Anze Kopitar noted how this is a learning experience for his young teammates, as only himself, Doughty, Dustin Brown, and goaltender Jonathan Quick are still around from L.A.’s Stanley Cup teams…
“Ten years ago — more than that — 13 years ago, we went through it,” said Kopitar. “It’s a learning curve. Some of the guys have stepped up to the plate a lot quicker than expected even in the regular season. This is another notch on their belt. Everybody is learning, and learning on the fly, which I can assure you is not easy.”
That version of the Kings made the playoffs for the first time in 2010 and they lost to the Vancouver Canucks in six games in the first round. They allowed 25 goals over the course of that series, including 13 in back-to-back losses in Games 4 and 5 after they had gone up 2-1 in the series.
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